Hanover to temporarily close portion of Allen Street to vehicles

A touch of Paris in Hanover, N.H., is this patio for outdoor dining at the Big Wheel Restaurant on Allen Street on Aug. 1, 1962. The Hanover Selectboard is considering an ordinance to allow vendors on the road. (Vallley News - Larry McDonald) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A touch of Paris in Hanover, N.H., is this patio for outdoor dining at the Big Wheel Restaurant on Allen Street on Aug. 1, 1962. The Hanover Selectboard is considering an ordinance to allow vendors on the road. (Vallley News - Larry McDonald) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Larry McDonald—Valley News

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-13-2024 7:16 PM

Modified: 06-14-2024 7:16 AM


HANOVER — A downtown street will be closed to vehicle traffic for much of the summer so that town officials can determine the costs and benefits of converting it into a pedestrian plaza.

From June 26 through Aug. 26, Allen Street will be closed to vehicles for about one block, from the intersection with South Main Street to the entrance to the municipal parking.

The one-way street will remain accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, and restaurants and businesses will be able to lease designated spaces for outdoor dining and vending.

The town plans to evaluate the closure’s effect on traffic, parking, pedestrian travel, shopping and dining and social gatherings, Town Manager Alex Torpey said in an interview.

In recent years, the town has closed this block of Allen Street for special events, including weekend street fairs that the town introduced in 2023 to help draw more people downtown.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from surveys given to business and building owners — some are excited, some are interested and some are concerned about the impact to traffic and parking,” Torpey said. “But people have been really responsive to the block parties. … We just want to see what happens when Allen Street is closed longer.”

A working group of town staff and business owners hope to make Allen Street — which houses a mix of restaurants, retail, offices and commercial services — a safer, more public space for downtown events or social occasions, group members told the Selectboard in a presentation last month.

The new town master plan, adopted by the Selectboard in April, includes goals to improve walking and biking accessibility throughout town and to enhance public gathering spaces in the downtown.

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Feelings are mixed among Allen Street businesses and property owners. Some believe the experiment could add shopping and dining opportunities and improve traffic safety, while others worry that it will make already scarce parking more difficult to access.

Jack Stinson, owner of Stinson’s Village Store on Allen Street, said he’s concerned that town officials intend to make this change permanent.

“If you want streets to be like those in European towns, go to Europe,” Stinson said in an interview. “I want our side streets to stay the way that they are.”

The closure will result in the loss of several parallel parking spaces on the street, including four outside Stinson’s store.

Though the municipal parking lot further down the block will remain open, it will be less convenient to access for drivers on South Main Street.

Stinson also questioned how this closure will attract more economic activity on Allen Street. He said it might make the street more accessible to Dartmouth students, many of whom go on foot or on bicycle to the downtown, though the closure seems unlikely to attract people from surrounding communities to downtown Hanover.

Lori Shipulski, a real estate agent whose office is on Allen Street, said she believes the closure will have a positive effect overall.

“I think it’s great from a safety perspective and I think it will bring a lot of pedestrian foot traffic,” Shipulski said in an interview.

Safety is a major concern on Allen Street, Shipulski said.

The street is narrow and delivery trucks frequently parked outside the business make the block even more congested, she said. Sometimes drivers leaving the municipal lot turn the wrong way onto Allen Street, against the flow of traffic.

Shipulski also said that she has enjoyed the periodic street fairs, which have provided opportunities to meet new people.

The temporary closure allow for the study of the adverse impacts on businesses, as well as customers or medical patients who need to access Allen Street by vehicle, Torpey said.

The town has already been collecting downtown traffic data, including vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

That data will eventually be compared to data that is collected during Allen Street’s closure and after the street reopens, Torpey said.

The town will be releasing an online survey to the public next week on the town website, where people will be able to share their feedback about the pilot project. 

Results from the traffic studies and surveys will be shared with the public once the data is fully collected, Torpey said.

The Selectboard approved the two-month closure of Allen Street at the May 6 meeting. The board will hold a public hearing on Monday, July 1, to consider a more detailed ordinance for how the street will operate during the two-month pilot, including the leasing of spaces for vendors and outside dining areas or for special events, Torpey said.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.